Almost every Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is affected by the “protection crisis” under Israeli occupation, a senior United Nations (UN) humanitarian official has told the Security Council.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, delivered his statement on the Humanitarian Situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) on Wednesday.
Overall, according to O’Brien, “nearly half of all Palestinians in the oPt – some 2.3 million out of a total population of 4.8 million – are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.”
Concerning the Gaza Strip specifically, O’Brien said that “movement and access restrictions on goods and people…not only literally bind most people into an untenable reality in Gaza, but also impede economic activity.”
O’Brien noted how “over 1,500 traders and 160 business people in Gaza have lost travel permits in recent months, reversing a trend of increased permit approvals witnessed post- 2014.”
“Without the capacity to develop the local economy,” O’Brien said, “a sustainable solution to the humanitarian needs in Gaza will not be possible”, adding that “the full lifting of the closures is crucial to lasting progress in Gaza, in line with international law and Security Council Resolution 1860.”
The UN official pointed out that “the operating environment for humanitarian action in Gaza has also deteriorated”, with “access for humanitarian staff in Gaza…increasingly problematic.” The rate of permits denied to UN personnel based in Gaza rose from 3% in January to 41% in September.
Turning to the West Bank, O’Brien stated that the Israeli occupation authorities have demolished 958 Palestinian-owned structures – including in East Jerusalem – in 2016 to date (as of 13 October). This is 75% higher than the figure for 2015 as a whole.
In addition, the “demolition of donor-funded humanitarian assistance has also spiked, at 271, 150 per cent higher than last year, and there have been more demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem, 147, than in any year since the UN began systematically recording such demolitions in 2008.”
Israel has displaced 1,447 Palestinians, including 719 women and 690 children, and another 5,919 affected, including 1,571 women and 1,763 children, due to the demolition of livelihood structures. O’Brien added: “These demolitions violate international law and must cease immediately.”